What are 10 common rear-end collision injuries? Even what looks like a minor rear-end collision could cause severe and catastrophic injuries. Many rear-end wrecks happen quickly. The sudden forward movement of your vehicle could cause head, neck, shoulder, and spinal cord injuries, especially if you are not moving or are moving much slower than the vehicle that rear-ends you.
Rear-end crashes usually involve property damage in addition to injuries. The amount of property damage and severity of injuries depends on several factors, including speed. Reach out to a car accident lawyer.
How Rear-End Collisions Happen
A rear-end collision usually happens in one of two ways. The vehicle behind you could hit you, or the vehicle in front of you could reverse into you or brake-check you. Even when both vehicles are moving slowly, or one vehicle is at a stop when the other vehicle hits it, the crash could cause whiplash and other severe injuries. Another driver could also rear-end you, causing you to rear-end the driver in front of you. In most cases, the more significant the difference in speed, the more severe your injuries.
Critical Rear-End Injuries
Speed, body position, use of safety belts, and other factors dictate the severity and type of injuries you could sustain in a rear-end accident. Injuries range from minor cuts and bruises to fatalities. Critical rear-end collision injuries include:
When something, such as another vehicle in a rear-end wreck, hits you and causes your head to move forward and rearward. You could suffer spinal and nerve damage, a concussion, stretched tendons, and muscle damage.
Symptoms sometimes take days to manifest and include:
- Pain and stiffness in the neck
- Loss of neck motion
- Arm numbness and/or tingling
- Shoulder pain
- Upper back pain
- Pain in the arms
Injuries such as neck fractures and herniated discs could require surgery to repair.
2. Traumatic Brain Injuries
You could cause a concussion or other traumatic brain injuries when you hit your head. A rear-end collision could cause your head to crash the steering wheel, airbag, or window. The force of the hit could cause any number of traumatic brain injuries, depending on the severity of the impact.
Some of the symptoms of traumatic brain injuries include:
- Memory loss
- Loss of consciousness
- Mood swings
- Extreme fatigue
- Impaired cognitive function
- Vision issues
- Speech issues
If the injury is severe, you could suffer behavioral, cognitive, and physical disabilities. If a traumatic brain injury causes a coma, paralysis, or other issues, you could require care for the rest of your life, including more doctors’ appointments, therapies, and rehabilitative care. Some might require in-home or permanent care in a nursing or rehabilitative home.
3. Face and Eye Injuries
When someone hits you from behind, he could push you into moving traffic, a vehicle stopped in front of you, or into stationary objects. Broken glass, fragments from a crushed dashboard, and even the airbag could cause cuts and burns. Some might even cause disfigurement and scarring. Facial injuries could require surgery, which adds additional pain and suffering.
4. Soft Tissue Damage
The non-bony parts of the body, including ligaments, muscles, tendons, nerves, and fat, are all considered soft tissue. If a rear-end crash throws you around or shoves you into the steering wheel, you could suffer soft tissue injuries, including sprains, tears, strains, pulled muscles, torn muscles, bruises, and soreness.
Soft tissue injuries often go undiagnosed and are, therefore, untreated, which could lead to complications.
5. Back and Spinal Cord Injuries
Rear-end collisions often cause back injuries because the lower and middle back could move back and forth with a sudden violent motion. The movement flattens and/or disrupts the spine’s natural curve. This impact could damage the spinal cord, disrupting the message-sending capabilities of the spinal cord.
Depending on where the injury is, the damage could cause partial or complete paralysis in some or all of your limbs.
One of the more common injuries you could suffer in a rear-end accident is one or more broken bones. You could break your wrists, hands, fingers, arms, legs, feet, toes, legs, ribs, or even your hips. You could suffer a simple fracture, where the bone doesn’t expose itself through the skin, or a compound fracture, where the bone punctures the skin.
Depending on the severity of the wreck, you could also suffer crushed bones that might require extensive surgeries to repair.
7. Neck and Shoulder Injuries
When you take a sudden hit from behind, your neck and shoulders can snap forward, depending on the intensity of the collision. The sudden movement could damage muscles and other soft tissues in the neck and shoulder area, as well as the spinal cord.
Whiplash is a common neck injury caused by sudden movement. Although vehicle manufacturers include anti-whiplash properties in their headrests, drivers and passengers in vehicles could still suffer whiplash.
If a large enough vehicle hits you from behind, it could crunch the vehicle enough so that the vehicle could crumple and cause sharp edges. This can result in a hand, finger, arm, leg, or other body parts being crushed or severed during the crash.
A rear-end collision could cause a fire if a fuel tank explodes or if fuel leaks and a spark ignites it. You could suffer thermal burns from the flames or chemical burns from fuel and other fluids leaking from the vehicles or a tanker. A truck carrying flammable material could also cause an explosion in a crash.
Burns could cause excessive scarring and disfigurement, pain and suffering, and other injuries you might recover if the at-fault driver is negligent. Burns, depending on how significant or widespread they are, could require several surgeries to repair.
Finally, rear-end crashes could cause fatalities. If the vehicle that hits you is driving fast enough or is large enough, it could crumple the passenger compartment enough to crush you. Those sitting in the rear seat are at a higher risk of death because they are closer to the vehicle’s rear.
Rear-End Collision Causes
In many cases, the cause of a rear-end collision is because a driver is not paying attention. However, while that is a common reason, it is not the only reason.
Other reasons someone could cause a rear-end collision are:
- The brakes or another part of the vehicle malfunctions, causing the vehicle to continue traveling. Depending on the vehicle’s speed, the injuries you might suffer could be catastrophic, including traumatic brain and spinal cord injuries.
- Following too closely or tailgating.
- Distracted driving. All it takes is just a second to glance down at your radio or HVAC controls.
- Speeding and excessive speeding. Even if someone is traveling at or below the speed limit, they are speeding if the speed is too fast for weather or road conditions. When a speeding driver comes upon slower or stopped traffic, she may not be able to stop in time, which will cause a rear-end collision. In some cases, the impact could be severe enough to push one or more vehicles into others in front of them, causing a chain reaction of two or more rear-end collisions.
- Fatigued driving. is similar to driving under the influence in that your condition affects your reaction times, judgment, and perception. The driver might not realize quickly enough that traffic has slowed or stopped and could cause a rear-end collision.
- Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs impairs your faculties. The driver’s poor perception, judgment, vision, and reaction time could cause him to crash into the back of slower or stopped traffic. In some cases, the person driving under the influence could be speeding and crash into another vehicle doing the speed limit.
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Determining Fault in a Rear-End Crash
The person who hits you from behind is not always at fault—and you are not always at fault if you are the one that rear-ends a person.
If the driver in front of you stomps on the gas and rams into you in reverse, it looks like you rear-ended that person. A driver in front of you could brake check you or start to take off, then suddenly stop as you begin to accelerate. These types of accidents might not be your fault. Dash cameras often catch such behavior when it happens.
Recovering Damages After a Rear-End Collision
After a rear-end collision, you could recover damages in the form of compensatory damages. Some states also allow you to recover punitive damages if the other driver committed grossly negligent or intentional actions or inactions.
The court orders compensatory damages to make you whole again. However, if the court orders punitive damages, it is a punishment for the defendant’s behavior.
Compensatory damages have two categories:
Sometimes referred to as special damages, economic damages have a monetary value. Most people injured in car accidents recover economic damages, including:
The amount of medical expenses you have depends on the severity of your injuries and whether they cause long-term or permanent disabilities.
You could recover compensation for:
- Doctors’ appointments
- Surgeries and follow-up appointments
- Prescriptions and prescribed over-the-counter medications
- Ambulatory aids
- Physical therapy
- Cognitive therapy
- Occupational therapy
- Psychological therapy
- Hand controls for your vehicle
- Updates to your home, including but not limited to wheelchair ramps, handrails, grab bars, and widened doorways
- Home health care
- Rehabilitative care
- Nursing home care
You could recover lost wages for the time you miss from work because of injuries from a rear-end collision. Additionally, if you suffer long-term or permanent disabilities because of your rear-end collision injuries or you lost a loved one in a rear-end collision, you could recover the loss of future earning capacity.
Even if you can work part-time, or your injuries force you to take a full-time job that pays less than your previous job, you could recover the loss of partial earning capacity.
When a rear-end collision damages or destroys your vehicle and personal property inside your vehicle or on your person, you could recover compensation to repair or replace the vehicle or other personal property.
If you lost a loved one in a rear-end collision, you could recover death-related expenses, including:
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Cremation expenses
- Certain probate court costs
- Probate attorneys’ fees and costs
Sometimes referred to as general damages, non-economic damages do not have a monetary value. Not everyone recovers non-economic damages. In most cases, if you lost a loved one in an accident or suffered catastrophic injuries, you could recover non-economic damages.
A typical test for recovering non-economic damages is whether your injuries cause long-term or permanent disabilities. While each insurance company has its own definition for long-term or permanent disabilities, the Social Security Administration defines them as disabilities lasting for more than a year or resulting in death.
Non-economic damages include:
- Pain and suffering, including emotional distress
- Loss of quality of life if you have to make life-long changes, such as using ambulatory aids or taking prescriptions because of accident injuries
- Loss of companionship if you can no longer enjoy spending time with your family or participating in family activities and events
- Loss of consortium if you can no longer enjoy a physical relationship with your spouse
- Loss of use of a bodily function, such as your eyesight or bladder
- Loss of use of a body part, such as a foot or a hand
- Inconvenience if you have to hire someone to do the chores you usually do, including but not limited to grocery shopping, lawn maintenance, house cleaning, and home repair and maintenance
- Amputation of a digit or limb
- Excessive scarring and/or disfigurement
If you suffered injuries in a rear-end collision, contact a personal injury lawyer experienced in rear-end collisions for a free case evaluation.